Allergic Vulvovaginitis -OR- Does my Vag seriously have seasonal allergies?!?!

Is your vulva/vagina feeling raw for no reason?  Experiencing a burning sensation that you can’t pinpoint?  A mild itching or discharge that isn’t attributed to an infection or any other cause?

Your bits may be experiencing seasonal allergies!

I know it sound nuts but your vagina and vestibule are mucus membranes just like your eyes, nose, and throat and they react the same way to pollen, grasses, yard work, fruit skins, and really any other airborne and/or food allergy. This means you can experience a vaginal allergic reaction at any time, but many vagina owners are experiencing the above mentioned symptoms recently with no accompanying infection because the level of allergens we are being exposed to are much higher right now with Spring arriving.  You may not even notice any allergic reactions in the rest of your body such as itchy eyes or skin, runny noses or sneezing but are noticing the rawness/burning/stinging symptoms to your vulva and vagina.  This is due to something called Countercurrent flow, which is used for other purposes to keep our reproductive tissues healthy, but this mechanism unfortunately also allows inhaled and ingested compounds to selectively accumulate in the vaginal walls and because they are accumulating in a place where you are normally pretty sensitive the reaction you experience at your vulva/vagina can be greater than one you experience in other areas of your body. 

Now, this isn’t always the case.  Most of the time an allergic reaction is noticed at the time and site of exposure but if you are stumped as to why your vulva is burning/stinging/raw for no apparent reason it could be due to the accumulation of allergens in the vulvo/vaginal epithelium.

I posted a rant about my vagina’s seasonal allergies on reddit and the responses I received back, while ultimately not surprising, were unexpected all the same as I didn’t realize that so many were experiencing this issue. All the responses were from people suffering the same way as me during the same time of the year.  I decided this was probably much more of a relatable issue than just on the subreddit and thought I should write this article, not only putting a name to what you may be experiencing but to help you prevent it as best as you can and treat it effectively if you need to.  I learned that over half of women experience this issue to some degree.

Over 50% of Us!!

Side Note:  Seasonal allergies, food allergies, semen allergies, ANY allergy that you may have can make you more susceptible to yeast infections.  The yeast infection being a secondary condition, and if you don’t resolve the primary condition you end up with recurrent infections because allergens spark off a series of events.  Very simply put they instigate a histamine and inflammation response which ends up causing immunosuppression in the vagina.  Candida (yeast) is an opportunistic organism, so if your vagina’s defense system is down the candida see this as their “opportunity” to wreak havoc.  So, if you are finding yourself with recurrent yeast infections, especially in the Spring but also any time of the year, it might be worth your time to see if there is an allergy as the primary condition you need to address.

How to TREAT current vulvovaginal seasonal allergy response:

Please note I am not a Dr., this is not medical advice, and to cross check all medications/supplements with others you are taking or medical conditions you have.

  • Take an antihistamine like Benadryl
    • Seriously, If your’re currently experiencing symptoms use a fast acting antihistamine to knock symptoms down while you get the other treatments and long acting daily antihistamines working
  • Take an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen IF you are medically cleared to do so
  • Sit in a luke-warm bath with a little bit of plain Epsom Salt for 10 minutes to soothe the area
  • Start taking a daily antihistamine like Claritin, or Allegra, or Zyrtec-however Zyrtec has been reported to be the most drowsy inducing of the daily antihistamines.
    • Benadryl isn’t a daily antihistamine and can also make you pretty sleepy.
    • Decongestants will not help in this situation-your vagina is not trying to breathe air through its congested sinuses lol, you need to stop the flare up of histamine and inflammation signals to the vagina and can make mucus membranes INCLUDING THE VAGINAL TISSUES dry so when choosing an antihistamine try to make sure it doesn’t have a decongestant.
    • Side Note: If you are supposed to be taking a daily antihistamine with a decongestant as directed by your dr it is safe on your vaginal tissues, just make sure you are drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
  • A Dr. can prescribe you a mid-strength steroid, such as Triamcinolone for example, to apply to your vulva a couple of times a week to keep the reaction severity low while you get your allergies under control.  You can try an OTC hydrocortisone, like Cortisone10, but make sure whichever brand you choose that it is in petroleum jelly/vasaline only and no other ingredients.  Not everyone can tolerate the OTC cortisone steroid however so keep this in mind when deciding to try this method or if things seem worse stop using, mid-strength prescription steroids are tolerated more and can be considered in consultation with a Dr. (I have a prescription steroid but have tried Cortisone10 and didn’t care for it)

 Tib Bits (I love Tid Bits):

  • Did you know that your male sexual partner may need to take a medication or likes to eat a food you might be allergic to and that the drug or food allergen can be present in his sperm?
    • This would be a source of exposure to your vagina.  A Dr. can look at prescribing a systemic type of immunotherapy or other recommendations for your specific allergy depending on how much it bothers you.
  • You can also develop an allergy to candida meaning that you might not show signs of a yeast infection or get a positive test result but you could experience the rawness, stinging, and slight itch with even the smallest amount of candida in your vagina.  Most of the time your vaginal defenses can keep these limited offenders from becoming an infection, but some women develop an allergy to the candida.  Immunotherapy is typically started in this case and usually has pretty successful results.

How to PREVENT seasonal allergens, or any allergen, from affecting your vulva/vagina:

  • Staying calm, seriously.  Stress and throwing medications you don’t need at the situation makes everything worse
  • Start a daily antihistamine like Claritin/Allegra/maybe Zyrtec or another, just not Benadryl
  • Start journaling your symptoms and what you did for the day, what you ate/drank, if you had sex and if you used a lube or toy, condom, spermicide, if you shaved-basically you need to start learning your triggers so that you can either avoid them or limit them.  (There are some triggers I know I have but choose not to avoid occasionally so I know I will won’t be surprised if I experience symptoms.)
  • Try to go to the bathroom and expel any semen from inside of your vagina after sex.  Don’t rinse it out, just use gravity and a little pushing.  Semen/ejaculate contains proteins that end up causing a response in the vagina, however most of the time it goes unnoticed.
    • Semen/Ejaculate can also contain drug compounds from any medications taken which then get deposited in the vagina and can be absorbed locally or spread systemically, so that can be a source to watch out for.
  • Some lesser known allergens to avoid: spermicides, soaps, scented menstrual products, winged menstrual products have glue in the wings which can melt from body heat and sweat and be absorbed so watch for this to bother you, latex, intestinal parasites can spark an allergic reaction.  Dust mites, pollen, lactose, nuts, or simply whatever food you may have an allergy to-the biggies are nuts, lactose, shellfish, soy, and wheat.  Animal dander, propylene glycol, parabens, formaldehyde, colophony, coal tar, or heavy dyes which are usually in products, some people have antibiotic allergies or antifungals like Monistat cream.  I, and many women, get severe dermatitis from antifungal cream medications.  Scented products, candles, air fresheners, perfumes, shaving creams, body washes, too frequent vulvar washing, or shaving!  Shaving is a huge part of our problem.  Shaving causes immediate inflammation on the vulva although you might not notice any physical symptoms immediately after shaving, however it tends to cause problems down the road, maybe stick to trimming in the Spring until allergens calm down.
  • Some people are allergic to the skin of some fruits.  Usually their mouth gets itchy and raw after eating the offending fruit so you would typically notice this.  If you do have this allergy, be aware it can accumulate in your vagina.
  • Sleep naked to allow for some air flow time
  • 100% cotton, preferably white, underwear.  Disperse Blue 124 which is used in black clothing like leggings/yoga pants, jeans, bodysuits, athleisure/athletic wear, and underwear, and is the most common dye to cause sensitization.  It is suggested that sweat plays a role in the transfer of the dye compounds from the clothes to the skin and is absorbed.
  • Use dye free and scent free laundry soap for clothes and no fabric softener used on underwear so you’ll probably need to start washing them separate.  I do, it’s not that big of a deal. 
    • Don’t dry your underwear outside so as to avoid pollen and allergen contamination.
  • If you know you will be exposed to pollens/allergens take an antihistamine beforehand if you are not already taking one daily.
  • If you do any outdoor activity, think about whether you should shower before going to bed.  Pollen and allergens can be in your hair or on your body and if you climb into bed they get stuck and spread around your sheets and blankets and you will get exposed to them night after night until you wash your bedding.
  • Wear work gloves when gardening, pulling weeds, etc.  Even when I am simply harvesting my fruits or vegetable and not touching something like an itchy/prickly weed, I get dermatitis on my arms and my vulvo/vaginal symptoms flare up, yet I don’t get a runny nose or itchy eyes. Just touching nature sparks a histamine reaction I, and you, may not notice but your vagina does!

In the case where a woman does not realize she is allergic to something yet has vulvo/vaginal symptoms not only can she develop an allergy to candida like I mentioned but the vagina owner can also develop vulvodynia/vestibulodynia.  This condition develops from hyperinnervation (meaning excessive innervation, or excess nerves in the tissues/muscles) which comes from hypersensitivity, in this case usually from the constant bombardment of histamine and inflammation responses from an allergy that the person isn’t aware of and thus not controlling.

And that’s pretty much it! 

You may not need to take a daily antihistamine all year long, I don’t, but if you are having symptoms all of a sudden now that Spring ( or Fall) is here and there aren’t any indications of an infection like the stereotypical discharges or odors than it’s probably from something raising your body’s histamine and inflammatory responses and it might be a good idea to start taking a daily antihistamine every Spring through Fall to avoid having a raw, stinging, vag! 

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6 comments

  • Very interesting! You mentioned seman having medication from your partner.

    I haven’t read everything on this lovely blog but have you done research on drugs from seman and the effects on a lady’s vagina? In particular marijuana? Could it at all be possible for that drug to be seen as an allergic reaction? It is plant based.

    Like

    • I just did a quick look at some study sites and didn’t find anything right away because it’s so heavy on what cannabis does to sperm so there’s some deep digging to be done to tease out the sperm health from a sesrch but if you have an allergy to marijuana and your partner uses it regularly enuf I would say there’s a decent chance you’re getting exposed to it. I will have to try and confirm this but just based on how allergens accumulate and get eliminated through the body I would say it’s always possible.

      Glad you like my site!

      Like

  • Pingback: The Role of Probiotics in Combating Chronic BV and Yeast Infections | Healthy Hooha

  • Thank you for this post!
    I have been struggling with this. Multiple gyno doctors, no relief.
    This makes perfect sense. Thank you.

    Like

  • Thank you for this post!
    I have been struggling with this. Multiple gyno doctors, no relief.
    This makes perfect sense. Thank you.

    Like

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